Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Manathakali Vathal Kuzhambu

Vathal Kuzambu was a staple at home.  My dad and I loved it.  My brothers did not care too much for it.  My mom made the best Vathal Kuzambu.  Most of the time, she would not use any vathal (dried berries or okra).  She would use onions and tomatoes instead.  I can still remember salivating over my lunch box when my mom packed vathal kuzambu sadam (rice mixed with vathal kuzambu) and urilai kizhangu (potato) curry.  It had just the right blend of tangy tamarind taste and spices.

Manathakali Vathakuzhambu

On festival days, or on days when we could not use onions, she would make it with either sundaikai (Solanum torvum - Turkey Berry), or manathakalikai (Solanum nigrum- Black Nightshade ) vathal.

My kids have not developed a taste for this spicy, tangy dish, but my husband and I love it.

I was making lunch a few days ago and while looking for something else, found a bag of manathakalikai vathal.  Since it had been ages since I made vathal kuzambu with vathal, decided to make some.

Here is what you need:

  • Lime size ball of tamarind (see note)
  • 3 tsp sesame oil (see note)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split channa dal
  • ½ tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • ¼ tsp hing (asafetida)
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • few curry leaves
  • hand full of manathakali vathal
  • 2 tsp sambar powder
  • salt to taste

Note 1:  I use tamarind and not store bought tamarind paste because it tastes much better when you extract the pulp yourself.  You can use tamarind paste if you are in a rush or if you don't have tamarind handy.  Substitute 2 tsp. tamarind paste for the tamarind.

Note 2:  Sesame oil gives this dish a unique flavor.  You can use any vegetable oil that you have on hand, if you don't have sesame oil.

Here’s how I make it:

  1. Soak the tamarind in a cup of so of water for ½ hour.  Squeeze out the pulp from the tamarind and save the extracted liquid.  You can discard the seeds and fiber left behind.
  2. Heat oil.  Add mustard seeds, channa dal, methi seeds, hing, and dry chilies.
  3. Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves (be careful because the hot oil can splash), and add the manathakali vathal.  Fry for a few seconds.
  4. Add the sambar powder and mix everything together.
  5. Add the extracted tamarind juice and salt. Add a little more water if it is too thick.
  6. Let this mixture come to a boil and then simmer on medium to low heat till the raw flavor of tamarind is gone (about 10 minutes).
  7. Serve with rice or kancheepuram idlis.

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